By Atayi Babs
Experts at a panel discussion on off-grid systems at the 2018 Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD) have identified off-grid systems as the way out Africa’s rural electrification challenges.
This is coming on the heels of the report that about 40% of new connections required to achieve universal energy access will come from off-grid solutions with 35% being mini-grid solutions and 5% as standalone systems
The panel, which comprised Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for infrastructure, energy, ICT and tourism at the African Union Commission agreed that off-grid power generation can take place in Africa in various forms starting from the simplest systems consisting of a PV-panel and a battery to high installed power isolated grids.
“With off-grid systems, Africa stands a better chance of leapfrogging other regions of the world in Energiewende (Energy Transition),” Dr Abou-Zeid said.
Other panellists which included Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, Ethiopian water, irrigation and electricity minister, and Mamisoa Rakotoarimanana, executive secretary of the Rural Electrification Agency in Madagascar, Thomas Duveau, Molly Webb, and Eckard Wolf, however cautioned that for off-grid systems to succeed in Africa, it is essential to have a good regulatory framework that can anticipate and accommodate various implementation structures including business operation models that encourage private sector investment.
It is important, panellists say, for Africa to deploy innovative methods in addressing the persistent challenges in the region’s energy sector.
Acknowledging Africa’s lack of strong institutional capacity as a major drawback of the region’s aspirations for clean energy transition, the energy commissioner declared AU’s readiness to provide member states “with policy solutions including regulations and standards towards an affordable, faster and more beneficial transition across all sectors of our economies.”
“We are committed to a cleaner, more secure and sustainable energy supply. Realizing this would require joint effort with all our partners in coordinating initiatives and sharing best practices to realise decisive and effective steps towards energy transition,” Dr Abou-Zeid added
Peter Altmeier, German energy minister at the dialogue said “It is possible to create prosperity, peace and security through Energiewende.” “Energy transition can provide more opportunities to this end for Africa and other regions of the world.
African non-state actors were not left out of the global energy meet as they underlined the need for the Berlin dialogue to recognise and apply the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) in their quest to liberate Africa from energy poverty.
The CBDR principle recognises historical differences in the contribution of developed and developing states to global environmental problems as well as differences in their respective economic and technical capacity to tackle these problems.
Augustine B Njamnshi, Coordinator, of the African Coalition for Sustainable Energy and Access (ACSEA) called on the German government and other developed countries “to draw parallel between those who have the luxury and option of transitioning from fossil-based energy to clean energy and those who do not have access to any form of energy at all and are in urgent need of energy.”
“For Energiewende to succeed in Africa, developed countries must recognise their historic responsibility and prioritise Africa’s needs through innovative financing and technology,” Njamshi added.